False Optimism Issue for Independent Schools amid Enrollment Declines

Ari Betof
Ari Betof

Based in Boston, Dr. Ari Betof (EdD) is a respected educational consultant who provides actionable advice when it comes to results-driven organizational leadership. Having recently attended the NAIS Annual Conference 2019, Dr. Ari Betof wrote about his experience at the National Association of Independent Schools event in a Medium article.

One major insight was that data showed 73 percent of schools experiencing moderate to high enrollment declines. In that context, one-third of school heads surveyed reported feeling very concerned about whether independent schools could remain competitive and relevant moving into the future. At the same time, only one-fourth of school heads expressed these same concerns when it came to their own schools. From Dr. Betof’s perspective, this represents both the donning of “rose-colored glasses” and a reluctance to acknowledge weakness when it comes to one’s own institution.

Dr. Betof has explored this topic in depth in the another Medium article entitled “The Seduction of False Optimism,” in which he maps out the dangers inherent in forecasting too much from metrics such as enrollment numbers.


Rapid Prototyping and Analytical Tools Drive NAIS Conference Buzz

National Association of Independent Schools
Image: nais.org

A respected Boston professional, Dr. Ari Betof (EdD) serves as founder and president of Organizational Sustainability Consulting and works closely with senior executives at nonprofits. In his article “Three organizational sustainability takeaways from NAIS Annual Conference 2019,” Dr. Ari Betof brought focus to his experience in Long Beach at the flagship event of the National Association of Independent Schools.

One current buzzword is “rapid prototyping,” a concept most commonly associated with 3D printing and the efficient creation of scale models of physical objects. The use within an NAIS context involves incorporating flexibility and speed into program development and organizational design.

One “large-scale paradigm shifting initiative” incorporating this approach is the Mastery Transcript Consortium, which brings together high schools in creating school transcripts that better reflect each learner’s specific strengths, skills, and interests.

Another take home was that, while data analytics-driven initiatives and tools are coming online such as DASL Databook and Marketview, many schools do not have the capacity to make best use of their insights. The ability to make data-informed, mission-driven decisions is only possible if school leaders can access platforms and if the underlying data is sound. This is not yet possible for a number of smaller and under-resourced institutions.

Fortunately, designers are making efforts to create products that better meet the needs of end-users. At the same time, associations such as NAIS are creating a sense of common purpose that enables smaller schools to catch up.

Membership Organizations Benefit from Expert Consultants Too

Ari Betof
Ari Betof

Nonprofit membership organizations serve their member institutions by providing expert advice and support. But these organizations benefit from expert consultation too. As president of Organizational Sustainability Consulting, Dr. Ari Betof advises, consults to, and facilitates expert workshop sessions for membership organizations in addition to his consulting work with other nonprofits. In the past year, Ari Betof served as a senior advisor for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and completed projects for several other membership organizations. Experienced in leadership development and governance, Dr. Ari Betof recently completed a data analysis project about board chair and head of school succession for the Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS).

Dr. Ari Betof also regularly speaks at industry events, including two recent presentations for the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS). The first presentation was a panel discussion on challenging in a competitive marketplace and the impact of antitrust laws on nonprofits at the NJAIS Finance Officers’ Conference. Several weeks later, Dr. Ari Betof lead an extended workshop session on managing up, organizational savvy, and influence without authority at the NJAIS Admission Officer’s Conference.

Since its founding in 1958, NJAIS has worked to foster and advance the educational capabilities of private schools in New Jersey. In addition to advocating for member schools at the local and federal level, NJAIS provides professional development opportunities and promotes best practices. Moreover, the organization operates a rigorous accreditation program.

Ari Betof has has served as a two term trustee of the Friends Council on Education. He has been a faculty member for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) School Leadership Program as well as a working group member for several NAIS strategic projects. Dr. Ari Betof has presented at multiple international and national conferences, including the NAIS Annual Conference and the Enrollment Management Association Annual Conference.

The Leadership Brainery Offers National Ambassador Fellowships

Ari Betof
Ari Betof

President of Organizational Sustainability Consulting, where he coaches executives on institutional leadership and effectiveness. In addition to his consulting work, Ari Betof regularly speaks on leadership and governance topics. He supports a spectrum of organizations, inclduing The Leadership Brainery in Boston, MA.

A nonprofit group, The Leadership Brainery helps underrepresented and first-generation college students access graduate and professional-level academic programs. The organization seeks to alleviate the disparity amongst minorities in professional positions through its National Ambassador Fellowship program.

The National Ambassador Fellowship chooses one undergraduate student from across the US states and Puerto Rico to join the program. The selection process is competitive and requires all candidates to be nominated. A limited number of these individuals are invited to submit personal leadership statements and participate in video interviews. Fellows are then accepted into to The Leadership Brainery program from this whittled-down pool of nominees.

Ambassadors receive supportive services that include three years of personal and professional development, graduate-school admissions assistance, and preparation materials for the Law School Admission Test, the Medical College Admission Test, and the Graduate Management Admission Test. Upon completion of the program, ambassadors provide a trusted diversity pipeline for industry recruiters and professional-degree programs recruiting innovative leaders and change agents.

Independent Schools Receive Data-Informed Consulting Services

Ari Betof
Ari Betof

An experienced school administrator, Ari Betof has a doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania with focus on organizational dynamics and financial sustainability. Ari Betof is also a frequent presenter at national and regional conferences and serves as the president of Organizational Sustainability Consulting, LLC, in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Organizational Sustainability Consulting is a mission-driven firm that fosters the health and vitality of groups that operate in the social-service sector. In addition to nonprofits and small colleges, the firm provides consulting assistance to independent schools.

These institutions benefit from a data-driven approach, which promote financial and organizational sustainability. They also receive access to an array of coaching for senior leaders and boards of trustees including executive coaching, retreats, working sessions and strategic-planning consultation. Moreover, Organizational Sustainability helps independent schools in conducting fundraising and enrollment management audits, financial modeling, and viability analysis.

For further information on services offered by Organizational Sustainability Consulting, visit www.orgsustainability.com.

The Need for Financial Crisis Simulations

Ari Betof
Ari Betof

A consultant to senior leaders at nonprofit organizations, Dr. Ari Betof is the president of Organizational Sustainability Consulting, LLC. In an article on his Medium website titled “Fiscal Fire Bubbles – The Case For Financial Crisis Simulation,” Dr. Ari Betof states that while active-shooter exercises have sadly become routine in workplaces and schools, a mass shooting is less likely to happen than a financial crisis.

However, many organizations are not prepared for the possibility of a financial crisis. For instance, nonprofits should consider what would happen if changes in tax laws led to a major decrease in annual giving or if grant funding suddenly disappeared.

Organizations should consider creating a tangible plan to help them weather a potential financial crisis. Specifically, they can develop financial crisis simulations, which would consist of senior leaders, the board, and the finance committee. In addition, an outside consultant can be brought in who is knowledgeable about the organization’s financial state. The consultant can map out possible scenarios and build accountability on the team.

False Optimism Is Detrimental to An Organization’s Mission

Ari Betof
Ari Betof

The founder of Organizational Sustainability Consulting, LLC, Dr. Ari Betof assists senior nonprofit leaders to achieve their mission and overcome fiscal challenges. One of the areas of focus of his consulting work is the phenomenon of false optimism. While leaders should be positive about their mission, they should not be blinded by it. Dr. Ari Betof recently published an article on the website Medium on the seduction of false optimism.

Positivity is often required of nonprofit trustees. The reason they choose to serve in these organizations is that they sincerely want to be forces for good. However, Dr. Betof observes, such optimism can be detrimental if it blinds trustees from reality.

In good practice, trustees must inform their decisions using hard data and prevailing fiscal realities. They should not allow false optimism to birth misleading data interpretation. For example, small revenue jumps should not be the basis of long-term projections, and historically uncorrelated statistics should not be used as predictive indicators. Likewise, revenue dips should not be shrugged off. Where false optimism leads many to look at the future through rose-colored lenses, effective trustees must confront the hard numbers and base their actions on them.

Ultimately, only fiscally healthy organizations fulfill their missions. When false optimism threatens the sustainability of an organization, no matter how well-intentioned the trustees, it cannot fulfill its mission. Optimism is good but it must be held in context to the realities on the ground.

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started